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December 17, 2010

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The Tablet Is Changing the Face of TV

iTunes offers a handful of apps that allow subscribers to watch live TV on their iPhone or iPad. But just browsing through the selections, and more importantly the reviews, it seems live streaming TV to a mobile device has not yet been perfected! Most apps are aimed at niche audiences, require additional hardware to view the video or simply provide an inferior playback experience due to unreliable bandwidth to properly stream the video. I’d argue the biggest impediment to perfecting these apps is content. The biggest impediment to gaining the rights to content is content security. And who already has access to high-quality content and conditional access (CA) / digital rights management (DRM) systems in place? Digital TV operators. We believe the cable, satellite and IPTV operators that already have the rights to broadcast premium content are in the cat bird seat to offer the best live mobile TV experience. The demand is clear. According to Sandvine, real-time entertainment, including video streaming, now accounts for about 43% of North American Internet traffic, up from 10% in 2008! And for the first time in history, the number of households paying for TV subscriptions is falling, in part due to the rise of Internet TV and over-the-top (OTT) services.

The technology is finally catching up to this demand when you consider what adaptive rate streaming can now enable. Now, in this new OTT world, the issue of content rights is complicated. Take companies like Ivi and FilmOn.com for example. They have developed technology that captures over-the-air broadcast signals and streams them to mobile devices – without consent from the networks. Clearly these broadcasters are not thrilled with the so-called loophole that they found in the U.S. Copyright Act. Both of these companies are already in an embattled legal fight with content owners to see if they have the right to do this. According to some attorneys, the law is on the side of the networks. We recently launched our ViewRight LIVE app in iTunes, which enables secure distribution of premium pay-TV services via WiFi and mobile wireless networks – of live TV. The app provides subscriber/device registration and device-level authentication. ViewRight LIVE also allows operators to customize and brand their mobile TV channel to match the look and feel of their traditional channels. So with the content rights, technology infrastructure and now the security available to enable a superior live mobile TV experience, digital TV operators have a tremendous opportunity. I’d say it is better to beat fledging online TV operators in the marketplace rather than the courtroom. What are your thoughts?

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